Monday, August 30, 2010

not the extrovert I wanted to be



First day of orientation.  5pm.  I write:

"Dinner out on the sem sounds lovely but I am in need of a nap and no new people for the next six hours."

As I write it, I hate it, but that makes it no less true.

I have, since I was ten, defined myself as an extrovert.  I like people.  I want people to like me.  For years I've been a leader, the girl going first, the girl bringing others in, the funny girl cracking jokes to get a laugh.  Extroverts are cool, they're energetic, they're charismatic, they're the people that people want to friend and follow.  So I'm an extrovert.  I want to be and so I am.

But I'm realizing I'm not.

I took the Myers-Briggs (among other tests) for my psych exam back in April.  I was ruled an extrovert, but I was troubled by that test for weeks.  Did I really love parties as much as I said I did? or did I think that I was supposed to?

In June, my scholarship from the Fund for Theological Education took me to Boston to spend time with other Leaders in Ministry at a five-day conference.  By day two, I was exhausted.  I felt that I could not meet another person, could not tell my story again, could not re-contextualize myself one more time.  But when I retreated to my room for "me time", I felt lonely.

So I prayed.  As often happens, I got an answer, and it was annoying:


shut
 up
and
listen

I didn't know quite what to do with that.  I am not really a shut-up kind of girl.  Often to my own detriment.  And I was a little offended at the crudeness of the advice.

But I knew that I was exhausted, so I tried to pay attention to the still-small-voice-inside. I sought out people that I'd already met and clicked with.  I got closer to them, and quieter with others; I let myself not be the funny girl; I didn't talk first, or second, or sometimes even third.  And it was great.  It was quiet and lovely and nourishing and wonderful.  I miss Boston and those five days still.

Today was the first day of seminary orientation.  The first day of many of contextualizing myself, of telling my story in two minutes, of new face after new face after new face.  I am exhilarated, and I am exhausted.

So I am learning, again, to shut up.  I am learning, again, to listen.  I am learning, again, to just be, to let these words and experiences pour into me like water into an empty pitcher.

And I am learning that when the moments of total exhaustion come, I have permission - in fact, I have a holy imperative - to say "Thank you," to say "Good night," and to board the bus home for a quiet dinner at my own kitchen table with the woman I love.

I am not the extrovert I wanted to be.  And it's lovely.